Saturday, March 5, 2011
What is Islamic Charity?
In Islam, every Muslim is obliged to give to charity in
whatever form to boost his piety and spread wealth
and goodwill among the whole community. It's no
surprise then that the Arabic word tasadaqa
(to give charity) is derived from the word "sadaqa"
which means tell the truth or be sincere.
Allah (SWT) says in the Noble Qur'an: "By no means shall
you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out
of what you love; and whatever thing you spend,
Allah surely knows it." (3:92)
Therefore voluntary charity, or sadaqa, which is different
than the zakah - the compulsory alms that are collected
each year - should be part of every Muslim's daily life.
Prophet Muhammad (S) said that every good deed is charity -
even a smile in the face of others is charity.
Prophet Muhammad (S) said: "There is no person who does not
have the obligation of doing charity every day that the sun rises."
Whereupon he was asked: "O Messenger of Allah (SWT), from
where would we get something to give in charity (so often)?"
Prophet Muhammad (S) replied: "Indeed the gates to goodness
are many: glorifying Allah (SWT), praising Him, magnifying Him,
saying 'There is no god but Allah', enjoining the good and
forbidding the evil, removing (any source of harm from the road,
listening to the aggrieved, guiding the blind, showing the seeker
his need, striving as far as your two legs could carry you and
with deep concern to give succour to him who asks, carrying
with the strength of your arms (the burdens of) the weak.
All these are acts of charity which are an obligation on you."
And Prophet Muhammad (S) added: "And your smiling in the
face of your brother is charity, your removing of stones and
thorns from people's paths is charity, and your guiding a man
gone astray in the world is charity for you."
Charity, as it is traditionally understood, consists of money or
various objects given by the rich to help the poor or by the
strong to help the weak. Charity in its tangible, narrow sense
divides people into the receivers on the one hand and the
givers on the other. This division inspires among the receivers
feelings of weakness and even of error, and among those who
give feelings of pride and conceit. But the saying of
Prophet Muhammad (S), however, takes charity out of this
narrow, physical meaning and on to a spiritual plane that opens
up a vast and limitless world by emphasizing that every good is
charity. And on every person is the obligation of charity.
This is a unique concept of charity.
Prophet Muhammad (S) makes us realize the single spiritual essence
which lies behind every act of goodness. But Prophet Muhammad (S)
does not want us merely to know. Knowledge is not an end in itself.
Prophet Muhammad (S) wants to make us return to goodness,
goodness which is the very word of Allah (SWT).
Prophet Muhammad (S) wants that each of us should move and stir
ourselves from within into goodness so that giving would become
a habit of life, and that this habit would pass from person to person.
The complete Islamic concept of charity which includes all good
actions however small they may be, allows every person whether
rich or poor, to become givers and receivers on an equal basis.
This point to another basic principle of Islamic thought and
behaviors that the standard on which life is judged is not
the materialistic alone but one based on faith, feeling and
sensitivity which form the center of human relations. And from it
comes the ties of faith, affection and love to bind hearts.
Allah (SWT) says in the Noble Qur'an: "And united their (believers)
hearts; had you spent all that is in the earth, you could not have
united their hearts, but Allah united them; surely He is Mighty, Wise."
Prophet Muhammad (S) has said: "No one of you believes until he
loves for his brother what he loves for himself."
This is the essence of charity. So begin by meeting your brother
and sister with a smile. This would open up locked souls, penetrate
to the depths of the heart and exert a magnetic bond on society.
Read the hadith again and see how it reaches into the depths of
the soul, the essence of existence and creates hearts that are tender,
pure, radiant and beautiful.
And Abdullaah Ibn Haarith said: "I never came across a person who
smiled as much as Prophet Muhammad (S). Prophet Muhammad (S)
regarded smiling with a brother as an act of charity." (Tirmidhi)
Indeed every act of giving is charity, even a smile in the face of
Prophet Muhammad (S) was asked if acts of charity even to the
animals were rewarded by Allah (SWT). He replied: 'yes, there is
a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.'